Chicago Sun-Times writer Hedy Weiss is no stranger to controversy. Edward Albee once called her "irresponsible." Tony Kushner states that Hedy is "incapable of understanding standards of professional and ethical conduct." Most recently, our favorite Chicago critic had a massive hand in Porchlight's whitewashing controversy, eagerly defending the producers for casting a white male in the leading role despite outcry from artists of color and their allies across the country. Now, she's back to project her damaging and racist ideals onto Steppenwolf's Pass Over.
If you haven't heard her name before, you could consider yourself lucky. David Cerda, director of Hell in a Handbag, earned a standing ovation at the 44th Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards (problematic in their own way, but that's another story) when he thanked Hedy for never attending any of his productions over the past twenty years. Is Cerda not proof that a company can thrive without the blessing of a horrifying racist?
Her vomit-inducing Pass Over review speaks for itself:
But, for all the many and varied causes we know so well, much of the lion’s share of the violence is perpetrated within the community itself. Nwandu’s simplistic, wholly generic characterization of a racist white cop (clearly meant to indict all white cops) is wrong-headed and self-defeating. Just look at news reports about recent shootings (on the lakefront, on the new River Walk, in Woodlawn) and you will see the look of relief when the police arrive on the scene. And the playwright’s final scenes — including a speech by the clueless white aristocrat who appears earlier in the story — and who could not be more condescending to Steppenwolf’s largely white “liberal” audience — further rob the play of its potential impact.
Hedy's words are so shocking and irresponsible that they actually managed to eclipse another Chicago critic, Katy Walsh, opening her own review of the Steppenwolf production by actually using the "N" word.
Hedy's bigoted gaffe is one of many. She labeled the graffiti artists in Steppenwolf's This is Modern Art "urban terrorists." In her review of The Goodman's Gloria, she makes sure to identify the race of any non-white performer in the cast. Acclaimed director Joe Mantello once slammed her for labeling Fiyero's death in Wicked a "lynching" simply because a black actor had been cast. She criticized and victim-blamed a Chicago circus performer who had recently taken a serious fall in rehearsal on her Facebook page.
Disgusted yet? We're just getting started.
Silk Road Rising was forced to respond to Weiss when she, I kid you not, endorsed racial profiling. When reviewing American Theater Company's Men on Boats, she body-shamed the leading woman and labeled the actors of color "zesty." She also reviewed the physical features of the women of Chops (while focusing on the male performances) and insulted the women of Mamma Mia at the Marriott.
Hedy says black women shouldn't discuss their own cultural oppression because "they do not need to remind each other of such things."
Hedy slammed the only non-straight, non-white, non-man moment of Straight White Men.
Hedy projects guilt for crimes not committed.
Hedy seems unwilling to believe that a young black boy could be talented.
Hedy actually advocates for torture.
Hedy calls an actor "no Gene Kelly in the looks department."
Hedy dismisses female athletes and assesses their body types (oh, and there she goes singling out race again!)
...and there are so many more. If you don't like what you see, please sign and share this petition asking for theatre companies to stop inviting Hedy Weiss to their productions. With over twenty years of controversy behind her, it simply makes no sense that the Sun-Times keeps paying her and theatres keep sending tickets her way.
Written by Mark Schreppe